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5 talking points after Limerick stay unbeaten with eye-catching win over Kilkenny

Nine points separated the teams at Nowlan Park.

Shane Dowling celebrates scoring the first goal Shane Dowling celebrates grabbing Limerick's first goal.

1. The form of the 2018 kingpins

February assessments of the hurling health of teams come with a natural warning given their early season timing but it is striking how high a pitch Limerick are operating at. They have the look of a team who are feeding off the good vibes from last August’s breakthrough All-Ireland victory.

Returning to the top tier of league hurling is clearly something of significance for their camp. A three-point success away to Wexford and a seven-point victory at home to Tipperary preceded today’s successful foray to Noreside. Having nine points to spare at the final whistle was reflective of their superiority.

2. Change in fortunes at Nowlan Park

You had to trace a path back to 1997 before today for Limerick’s last success in Nowlan Park. They triumphed in that league semi-final tie 22 years ago by nine points and matched that winning margin here. Limerick had only played two league encounters here since then, largely due to their absence from the elite league level, but it still marked the end of a barren spell. It’s just over 19 months since Limerick’s summer dreams evaporated at the hands of Kilkenny in a qualifier. Much has changed since.

3. Na Piarsaigh duo make their mark

The early months of the hurling campaign have been characterised in recent years by the Na Piarsaigh contingent in Limerick being tied up with club commitments. 2018 saw their season journey into late March and after the final replay loss, it was tricky to break into a settled Limerick unit.

Paddy Deegan and Padraig Walsh with Conor Boylan Conor Boylan under pressure from the Kilkenny rearguard. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The upshot of last November’s Munster defeat is an opportunity to stake a claim on the county stage. Shane Dowling and Conor Boylan were stationed in the half-forward line today, by the interval they both had goals to their name. Dowling finished with 1-2 and Boylan notched 1-1, both doing plenty to put their hands up for future selections.

4. Tough day at home for Kilkenny

Kilkenny opened their league assignments in late January with a convincing victory over Cork. Returning to home soil for a second time today saw them face an altogether different proposition. The game saw competitive fare for the opening half hour but once Limerick accelerated clear, Kilkenny could not get close again. Between the 33rd and 47th minutes, John Kiely’s team outscored their opponents by 2-9 to 0-1. It was a formidable show of strength and despite Kilkenny’s spirited late efforts, they never looked like threatening an improbable revival.

Aaron Gillane with a young fan 0-9 for Aaron Gillane for Limerick today.

5. Gillane continues to fire up front

Another good few days for Aaron Gillane in showcasing his attacking threat. He posted 1-12 – 0-4 from play – on the board in Ennis in Thursday’s Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final as Mary Immaculate College successfully negotiated that hurdle.

Today he finished with 0-9 to his credit, bagging 0-3 off the Kilkenny rearguard. From the start Gillane looked sharp, sweeping over sweetly-struck points and constantly providing an outlet when Limerick players looked upfield. He was central to their success.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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